“Decision makers can satisfice either by finding optimum solutions for a simplified world or by finding satisfactory solutions for a more realistic world. Neither approach, in general, dominates the other, and both have continued to co-exist in the world.”
Herbert Simon, Nobel Prize acceptance speech
Here’s the world we live in today…
You’re on the couch mindlessly scrolling through TikTok when you see some dude clean his kid’s ears with a fancy earwax removal camera.
Suddenly you wonder about the amount of wax packed into your own and your family’s ears. It could be pounds of wax by now!
You click on the ad, and it brings you to this person’s Shopify store. The site looks a little dodgy, but you’re interested and decide to do a bit more research.
You search on Amazon for earwax removal scopes and get dozens of hits with varying prices and reviews. All of them look identical.
You’re now smack-dab in the middle of an ear wax removal tool dilemma.
What are you going to do?
If you’re like me, you back out of the rabbit hole, stick with your existing Q-tip solution, and go back to scrolling on TikTok.
They will likely send abandonment emails offering a discount to close the sale. All that will be ignored because there is a huge issue not being addressed.
I can’t satisfice.
I don’t have confidence in the brand or its promise.
In a world with too much information, having confidence in the brand is the key in deciding.
Let me explain, and afterward, you’ll see how this relates to book marketing and choice.
Let’s talk about a different product that I’ve had experience with—noise-canceling headphones.
I recently purchased a pair of $149 Cowin noise-canceling headphones. I bought cheaper ones for my kids with good results and thought I would get a nicer pair.
After four months, they wouldn’t hold a charge.
I went to return them, and the product and the company were gone from Amazon. All the products, the reviews, everything gone.
I was able to find a Cowin site and complain. Weeks later, I got a reply, and to their credit, I did get a free replacement.
I did some research…
On Alibaba, there are eight suppliers of Cowin-like earphones with prices between $9.00 to $42.00. The price is tied to volume. I could buy there if I wanted the lowest price.
Most of the earphones sold on Amazon are sourced by solopreneurs from Alibaba then sold via fulfillment by Amazon.
This is one of the get-rich-quick schemes running right now. Source a product from China and sell it on Amazon. The problem is sellers can’t differentiate themselves from each another.
This issue is that $150 on Amazon for earphones may be in my budget. What isn’t in my budget is the cognitive power to determine if I should trust any vendors to deliver a quality product, especially after being burnt.
Unconsciously, what hangs in the balance isn’t me picking one of the providers but not making a disastrous choice.
So I don’t choose at all.
For earphones, I’ll stick with brands I can trust like Sony and Apple.
In the case of earwax removers, I stick with a less effective solution and one that is, over the long haul, more costly and worse for the environment, all because I didn’t want to think that hard.
Until the ad, I hadn’t considered the issue.
They got my attention and interest, but I couldn’t differentiate that brand from other suppliers. I could tell this was a mass-produced product where the manufacturer didn’t have to provide a brand promise either.
This is a systemic problem. Since there is no brand to be trusted at the manufacturer or importer level, I assume they’re all equally shitty.
Why is your [insert genre] book worthy of my cognitive expense?
Mind you, I’m not even talking about reading your book, but determining if I should buy and read your book.
Earning attention and delivering on a brand promise is the game.
What sucks is that it’s proportional. Early in the relationship, you get a few seconds of attention, and you must deliver value quickly.
Not a lot of value but enough to win more attention.
Why should I open an email?
Why should I read the first sentence?
Over time, you earn the trust to demand more reader attention so you can deliver more.
Right now, for example, you’re 720 words into this email—that’s a massive commitment.
You’ve chosen to be here and commit the most energy-consuming part of your brain to the reading of this email because you trust that you’ll get something out of this.
You know what the brand offers. You’ve had previous payoffs.
The payoff is research and chunky nuggets to make your publishing business better.
That’s brand continuity and promise.
How do you communicate your promise?
How does your brand exude that it’s worthy of a reader’s attention?
For most, once they get over the satisficing moment to read your book, the book does the heavy lifting of brand building.
The issue we face is that it feels a lot like the guys selling earwax removal tools in many genres.
From a reader’s perspective, it’s hard to distinguish the differences. The covers are similar. Sales tactics are identical. Blurbs echo each another. Everything blends together.
When a reader is prepared to spend some cognitive energy, what do we do to make it visceral and straightforward that they are on the path to getting what they desire?
We want to start thinking about how to guide a reader within the context of your book, amongst others.
How do you become the right one to choose in a one-of-many market?
How can you get a reader to see that your book is the solution for their unmet desire?
Furthermore, if they are a new reader, how can you give them the confidence that they’re making the right choice?
You see, it’s not so much that they get the greatest book, but they get satisfaction out of the decision-making process. That’s satisficing. It’s about not making a bad choice.
Helping the reader feel they have made an acceptable decision given the limited information and that the limited information is enough not to jeopardize the choice.
This is when the illogical emotional way is the path to a sale. Rather than using reason to sell and risk cognitive overload, evoke the unconscious and get it to create the need to buy.
We assume that when we don’t get a conversion that it goes to some other author. If you track affiliate links, you’ll see that it is often other books that a reader buys, along with other products.
That suggests that the book-buying choice was abandoned to easier buying decisions.
We can’t get insight into how often you may send someone to a sales platform from an ad or post, and they just give up.
They say, “Too hard,” and go back to scrolling.
I think we lose more sales to it being too hard to decide rather than readers heading to another author.
This is the world we live in, and this is the business we’ve chosen.
Next week we will talk about how you’re influenced to look at what advertisers want you to look at and not what matters.
Thanks for your attention,
One more thing…
What if 85% of people who saw your first ad and clicked would buy if they just had more time to understand what you offer?
The prevailing wisdom is “convert or leave.”
If people do take multiple touches and time to develop trust, how can you capture them? They have already cost you money. Why throw away that investment when we’re over the visibility hurdle?
Allocate some of your advertising budget to an awareness campaign that sends them first to your website, where you can nurture them. See how over time those prospects develop into long-time readers.